A new poll on the corporate sales tax measure that will appear on the November ballot indicates that the proposal is not only controversial, but also volatile.
The latest poll shows the measure, known as Initiative Petition 28, being supported by 65 percent of Oregon voters. However, a survey by iCitizen, a non-partisan public involvement company, also shows that supporters aren’t fixed in their viewpoint. Among those surveyed, 29 percent were “strongly” in favor of the measure, while 36 percent said they “somewhat” favored it.
According to the poll of 555 registered voters, which was conducted online, the tax is opposed by 19 percent of respondents, with 16 percent undecided. More than half of the “no” voters characterize their opposition as strong.
‘Very fluid issue’
The iCitizen poll is one of at least three recently released polls on the tax proposal, and its results differ markedly from previous surveys that showed weaker support for the measure.
A DHM Research poll done in May for Oregon Public Broadcasting and television station KPTV found 51 percent in favor, 32 percent opposed and 18 percent undecided.
A poll released in June by Salem’s Action Solutions showed 41 percent would support IP28, with 23 percent opposed and 35 percent undecided.
The questions in the three polls were also different. For example, the Action Solutions poll asked voters to respond to a short version of the ballot title. DHM Research asked voters to respond to a longer version of the title. The iCitizen poll paraphrased the title and summary, and also called it “the Business Tax Increase Initiative,” a term that will not appear on the ballot.
Traditionally, support for ballot measures falls as campaigns get underway. The iCitizen poll found that IP28 support drops sharply (particularly among Republican voters) if respondents are offered an opposing argument. Although the tax could provide needed funding for popular state programs, support drops to 55 percent if respondents are told opponents claim the additional tax burden will hurt businesses in Oregon.
“This is a very fluid issue,” says Mark Keida, iCitizen’s director of research. He said the language explaining the measure that will appear on the ballot is favorable to supporters. But, he noted, “Support disappears fast if an opposition argument is mentioned.”
Rebecca Tweed, who is helping lead opposition to IP28 as campaign coordinator for Defeat the Tax on Oregon Sales, found the poll hard to believe. “This poll is dramatically inconsistent with other public polling, including polls the Portland Tribune has published previously.
“As the nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office made clear in its IP28 analysis last month, the bulk of this $6 billion tax on Oregon sales will be passed on to consumers through higher prices for groceries, medicine, electricity, gas, insurance, phone services — essentials people buy every day. The more Oregonians learn about IP28, the less they like it.”
Asked to comment on the new poll, Katherine Driessen, press secretary for the IP28 campaign committee, said, “When you look across the country, Oregon is dead last in corporate taxes. Oregon voters know that if we are going to finally improve our badly underfunded schools and critical services, large, out-of-state corporations are going to have to start paying their fair share.”
What is IP28?
The initiative has been certified for the November election but not yet been given the measure number that will appear on voters’ ballots. It is sponsored by a coalition of labor, social justice and small business organizations called Our Oregon. It would impose a 2.5 percent tax on the sales of “C” corporations that exceed $25 million a year, generating an estimated $3 billion a year in additional tax revenue. The measure says the funds are to be spent on education, health care and senior services, although the Legislature could change that.
Our Oregon is supported largely by public employee unions, including the Oregon Education Association.
The measure is opposed by much of the business community, including the Portland Business Alliance and the Westside Economic Alliance. A report released in May by the Legislative Revenue Office found it would slow income, employment and population growth during the next five years. Among other things, the report said IP28 would be equivalent to a $600 per person tax increase each year.
The Legislative Revenue Office also found that, although only about 1,000 corporations would pay the additional tax, they account for 88 percent of the corporate retail trade in Oregon. Utilities such as Portland General Electric and large grocery and department stores would be among the entities required to pay the tax.
The iCitizen poll showed support for IP28 is strongest among Democrats, men and young voters. Young voters are the least likely to return their ballots.
When the opposition argument is added, support for IP28 drops among all demographic categories, but especially among Republicans (from 47 percent to 29 percent).
Support for three more
Pollsters also gauged support for three other ballot measures headed for the November ballot. Initiative Petition 68 would prohibit the sale in Oregon of products made from 12 types of exotic or endangered animals. Backers of the measure, known as the Wildlife Tracking Prevention Act, expect to submit more than enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot in the coming days. The iCitizen survey found 85 percent of respondents favored the measure.
Responses to the other two proposals were far less conclusive. The poll found that 50 percent of respondents oppose Senate Joint Resolution 4, a legislative referral to remove the mandatory retirement age for judges in the state, which is 75. Only 36 percent support it, while 15 percent are unsure. Interestingly, older voters were the most likely to support keeping the mandatory retirement age.
Initiative Petition 49, which would restrict the Legislature’s use of emergency clauses on legislation has support from 35 percent of voters polled, but even more (39 percent) are unsure.
The iCitizen online poll of 555 registered Oregon voters was conducted between June 23 and 27. The data were weighed to U.S. Census benchmarks for gender, age, region, education, income, and race. The margin of error for the full sample was plus or minus 4 percent.
The company conducting the poll, iCitizen, was founded in 2012 as a social networking service focused on civic engagement. It envisioned a nonpartisan civic engagement app where people could find information, be heard and work together with their representatives to create an impact in their communities. The company was relaunched in January 2016 with a broader vision to help citizens, representatives, candidates, organizations, schools and companies strengthen their relationships with their communities and one another.
The company’s vice president of state government relations is former Washington County Republican state Sen. Bruce Starr. (Starr is a co-sponsor of the proposed Wildlife Tracking Prevention Act.) Another Oregon connection is former state Rep. Derrick Kitts, who is iCitizen’s vice president for government relations